You’ve heard about the song even if you haven’t heard it yourself. Brian McKnight—the ‘90s R&B crooner who made music that made us all want to jump the broom—jumped back into the public fray for a little ditty he created.
The song was racy for a guy like McKnight; the "p—y" lyrics, seemed a bit out of his lane. He said on a YouTube video he posted late one night that he made the song after copious conversations with men and women about sex. And he gave us a sample of what he was working on; at the time, he said he’d been toying with the idea of doing "an adult mixtape."
The chorus sounded much like those melodic R&B love songs he made famous fifteen years ago. But the words were what grabbed at people and had him trending on Twitter for days. He sang to a woman who wasn’t sexually satisfied. He used language that we’d more likely hear in a Lil’ Wayne song—and on a bonus track, at that.
Since then, the offers have come rolling in. The singer recently was offered—and turned down—the chance to perform at the AVN Awards—which is the annual adult industry awards show, and he turned down the chance to make a signature song for a leading adult online portal. The offer McKnight did accept however, was a chance to officially make light of the whole situation teaming up with comedy site Funny or Die for a music video for the track just released today.
EBONY.com snags an exclusive interview with McKnight and he tells us why he did it, why he wouldn’t do it again and why you’ll never hear him sing the song at one of his live shows.
EBONY: “iFUrReadyToLearn" is an abrupt departure from your music, why did you want to make that song now?
Brian McKnight: Well, first off, I prefaced that whole video off by saying that I was thinking about doing an adult mixtape—which to me should’ve let people know that, one, it probably wasn’t going to be the garden-variety, regular sort of music that I create. I thought that the outrageousness of the video would’ve shown people that it was a joke.
EBONY: Did it surprise you that people didn’t take it as that, as a parody?
BM: It did. I always assumed, number one, that, as a celebrity, the fact that I only have 40,000 followers means what? That those people deal with me on a daily basis, they know how I operate…they’ve seen me perform, they know that I use humor. I float stuff all the time that doesn’t become the number one trending subject in the world. You know? The other side of that is that (is) the comments come back and go, "We think you’re this, and that’s only what you should do," and I’m like, really? Are you out there interrogating every other person that does this?’ It goes "We don’t expect much from them (other musical artists) so that’s okay, so we can jam to them, but not you." And my question is if that’s the case then why is my art form dying? If all these people love it so much, why are they not adamant about making sure that it’s around?
EBONY: So you’re challenging R&B by doing this?
BM: What I’m saying is, are we okay with the fact that that’s all that’s being made? And if not, instead of sitting around and complaining about it, now that this has happened—although it was not my intention—let’s actually talk about it. Let’s talk about how concerned you really are, because there’s a song out that I heard in the club called ‘Beat Your P—- Up’ that nobody had any problems with, because they didn’t expect much from that person. But that person could’ve been somebody who wanted to do something different, but they were told that this would be the only way that they were going to make it, and the only way I was going to quantify that was by doing it ourselves and look what happened. If I say that before I do it, they’re just gonna say, ‘Oh, you’re just hating on today’s music.’ So I couldn’t come from that standpoint, could I?
EBONY: A number of your Twitter followers came at you, and called you sexist. They didn’t like what you said back to them in response after you initially posted that video…
BM: What I took away from that is that they didn’t listen to the song. They listened to the chorus, cause it’s the beginning of the video and they didn’t really listen to it and now that it’s out they haven’t either, because if you really pay attention this girl is talking to her vibrator.
EBONY: I was gonna bring that up, actually…
BM: Have you ever heard a song that clever? That’s the thing. I think the shock value…initially I really had no idea—and I will preface this by saying that if I had it to do again, knowing this, I wouldn’t do it—but now that we’re here, let’s really talk about a lot of things, about the state of music, about Black music in particular, and let’s talk about sex. I had a radio show where we talked about this with women every night, and there were so many women calling in and talking about, "Yeah, I’m with this dude and I love him, but he doesn’t satisfy me sexually." So what do you do? Share knowledge? 'Cause I would insert things like, "sex is overrated."
EBONY: You said you wouldn’t do it again if you had the chance, why not?
BM: Because I never want there to be anything that’s negative, and I think that’s the artist in me that says that you don’t want to lose anybody. Now I’ve gained a lot of people too, and what you realize is that everybody has an opinion and then you also realize what everybody’s opinion is of you. Now I say that I wouldn’t, but we’re here now, so we can’t go back and take it back. That’s the beauty of the craziness of the Internet – once you do it, even after I took it down, people had already ripped it and posted it themselves. It shows you how people are.
EBONY: You had to be aware of how people viewed you before you made the song, right?
BM: No, I can’t, because all those people who have a problem are referencing my records from 13 years ago. They don’t even know that I’ve released six records since then. So if I’m really in your consciousness and you guys are really supporters of true R&B music, then prove it. That’s all I’m saying. So that somebody doesn’t have to go this route.
EBONY: Does this mean that you are going to go ahead and do an entire adult mixtape?
BM: No. No, I’m not. I never planned to in the first place. It’s just … society has shown us that the more outrageous of a thing that you do, the more you’re going to be in the consciousness of the mass public. I mean, who is the princess of America? Who is our person in America that’s as famous as the royals are in the UK? How did she get started?
EBONY: I get what you’re getting at. Kim Kardashian.
BM: Now, I’m not saying that that’s right. But this is what our kids see. They see … ‘now, I don’t need to be a doctor, I don’t need to be a lawyer, what I need to do is go do a sex tape and I will get put on. Everybody will watch it.’ Kim is … the most brilliant marketing person I’ve ever seen. Whether you love her, whether you hate her, she figured out a way to make it on her own and bring her whole family along for the ride. And whether you buy into it or whether you don’t, this is where we are and now, all of a sudden because I do something crazy, everybody wants to say that I’m the culprit, that it’s my fault? It’s crazy to me. But at the same time, I can probably go beat up my girlfriend and it would be OK.
EBONY: Oh no, don’t say that!
BM: No, no, no, that’s not what I’m saying. Listen to what I’m really saying. I will be forgiven for that. I will be forgiven for being on a video allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old and peeing on her and I will be forgiven if I’m bad, if I’ve already set the precedence of being bad. If you’re bad, you will always be forgiven, but if you’re perceived as good you can never do anything bad because they will crucify you. That’s the message that we’re giving our children: just be bad from the beginning and you can always do something good. I think that’s wrong.
EBONY: Do you feel like you’ve gotten beat up on unnecessarily?
BM: Oh no, no, no. I’m willing to take that, though, if there’s a solution that we can come to now. I’m willing to put my career on the line to say as loud as I possibly can that we have to stand up to the things that everybody’s saying that they want. If we support those things, then you always have an outlet for that. But don’t deny what I’ve done and say that it’s bad if you’re not going to categorically deny all of it. That’s all I’m saying.
EBONY: You’ve gotten a few interesting offers this week; one was to perform at the AVN Awards and you turned it down. Why?
BM: As a businessman, I have to listen to every offer that comes across my desk. So I wasn’t planning on singing this on the AVN, but let’s just be real, there are two kinds of people: people who watch porn and people who lie about watching porn. That’s all that there is. And there’s no site on earth that gets as much traffic as porn sites. I’ll give you a statistic. Last year, the porn business made $13 billion, which is more than all of the tech companies combined. So Google, Microsoft, all of ‘em combined…so what does that tell you? That people are out here doing what they need to do at home, which is perfectly fine with me. But that’s the thing, it’s 2012 and, really, all these people are uptight about p—- and squirt? Are you insane? Really? And if you go and look at their profile and it says on their profile, "worship leader" or "Jesus chaser," you’re not supposed to be listening to this anyway! Ok? That’s all I’m saying. Just don’t be a hypocrite.
EBONY: That said, what made you turn it down?
BM: Oh, because visually that wasn’t a good situation for me to be in. I’m not quite that liberal just yet. Even though I have been to the AVN Awards before, just not as a performer.
EBONY: There’s this renewed spotlight on you now because of the new song that you released, so what happens with you moving forward?
BM: I just created my foundation, the McKnight 360 Foundation, where I am trying my best to get music back into the schools and to give scholarships to those kids who really, really want to learn their craft. Number two, BrianMcKnight360.com, that’s where I’m releasing my music from now on. I realized that the currency of the future is your email address and if there are people out there who want this music they’re gonna get it from me directly. There’s no more middle man. I can’t leave the fate of my music up to someone who doesn’t really care about it, i.e., the record labels. No more. And I’m looking for the next Luther, the next Stevie, the next Marvin, because I’m gonna have a home for them and people are gonna know, I may not be able to find this on the radio, but I know that Brian is still dealing with quality artists and I can go find it there.
EBONY: Are you disappointed with where record labels have gone with regards to R&B music?
BM: All I can do is try to find the solution. The record labels have never been in it for the art. They never have. We’re in a day and age where you’re gonna have to be proactive about your own career, cause I’m not in the record business. I’m in the touring business.
EBONY: You’re actually touring doing some dates right now, right?
BM: I’m always doing dates. It’s the only way an artist is going to eat.
EBONY: So does that mean we’re gonna hear live performances of the new song?
BM: No, no, no, you’re never gonna hear that. Unless I come and do it in your bedroom, one-on-one. [Laughs] That’s not why I made it. It’s an adult song and, you know, maybe my next song will be about paying the mortgage. I don’t know. I can write about anything.
EBONY: You said you wrote this song because you were ailing at home and bored. How are you doing?
BM: I ruptured my Achilles about a month and a half ago, playing basketball and I’m almost walking now and I’m very close to being fully recovered. It hasn’t stopped me, I’ve done seven shows since I got hurt.
EBONY: This song got people talking and the conversation is still going …
BM: There is a fine line between genius and insanity.
EBONY: And where do you think this falls?
BM: I think I’m straddling the both ways, honestly. But nobody was talking about me two weeks ago.